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David Fuller murder trial: Heathfield man accused of killing Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in Tunbridge Wells in 1987

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

An electrician who has admitted brutally killing two women in 1987 had sex with them after their deaths and went on to sexually assault corpses in mortuaries, a jury has heard.

David Fuller, now 67, took part in "bizarre and grossly repellent" activity with his two victims, it has been claimed.

Fuller has gone on trial accused of the two murders of Wendy Knell, 25, and waitress Caroline Pierce, 20.

The jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard that Fuller – who worked at two hospitals in the 1980s – now admitted killing the women but claims he was suffering from mental illness at the time of his "cold-blooded activities".

But prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said Fuller was responsible for his depravity.

He added: "The defendant’s clear sexual interest in a bizarre and disturbing activity shows a unique link between the deaths of Caroline and Wendy."

David Fuller. Picture: The Sun/News Licensing
David Fuller. Picture: The Sun/News Licensing

The court heard he also had access to mortuaries while working at hospitals in the area.

"Evidence shows he had particular interest in the assault of dead women", Mr Atkinson said. "Following his arrest for the two killings in December 2020, the police undertook a painstaking search of his address.

"This uncovered his possession of a number of hard drives and hard copy images, carefully concealed and stored at his home, that showed that over an extended period of time he had used access his then job gave him to the mortuary of first the Kent and Sussex Hospital and then the Tunbridge Wells Hospitals."

In the loft of Fuller's semi-detached house approximately 250 storage boxes were found which included material dating back to the 1980s, including his diaries for 1986 and 1987.

"There officers found evidence in hard drives which contained a library of unimaginable sexual depravity.

"There were both photographs and videos which showed the defendant sexually abusing female corpses in the mortuaries of the two hospitals at which he worked, first the Kent and Sussex Hospital, where he worked full time from 1989, and then the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, to which he moved in 2010."

The prosecutor said: "The images and videos can be dated to a period that included his employment at both hospitals, and they show the defendant performing acts of sexual penetration on females of significantly varying ages.

"The defendant derived sexual gratification from spying on women. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the defendant who derived gratification in that way was not involved in spying on women in a way that would have allowed him to identify first Wendy and then Caroline as objects of his sexual depravity."

The prosecutor told the jury: "This bizarre and depraved activity was not being adduced to revolt them, but to assist them in their assessment of the issues. It shows the defendant to derive sexual gratification from sexual activity with those who have died.

"They took place in the mortuaries on days when the defendant was scheduled to be working, and therefore had legitimate access with his swipe card, and towards the end of his shift when the regular mortuary staff had gone.

Wendy Knell
Wendy Knell

"CCTV from the mortuary area shows that when on cameras he carried items, or performed actions that would afford a legitimate explanation for his presence. He also used the camera to record personal details of his victims from mortuary logs and identification bracelets.

"He then uploaded the footage and images to those hard drives carefully concealed at his home, in what was in effect an indexed and systematic library of his obscene activities into folder and sub-folders."

Earlier, the judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb QC told the jury that at the end of the trial – which is expected to last two weeks – they are being offered counselling because of the nature of some of the evidence.

She warned them not to be influenced by media reports while hearing the case.

The judge added that they may find some of the evidence may induce strong emotions such as repulsion or anger.

Ms Knell's boyfriend found her naked body in her bedsit in June 1987. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Five months later Ms Pierce vanished from outside her home a mile away. Her body was discovered in a flooded culvert 40 miles away on Romney Marsh weeks later.

Fuller – balding, bespectacled and wearing a black Covid mask – arrived in the dock dressed in a grey track suit and bottoms.

He answered only to acknowledge his name and sat with his head down during the opening.

Mr Atkinson said: "Fuller lived with his then wife in a staff house of Broomhill School, Tunbridge Wells – two-and-a-half miles from addresses where victims were resident.

Caroline Pierce
Caroline Pierce

"He had use of a car – car movements were observed at time of each killing. He had connections to addresses – he had previously lived at Guildford Road.

"He was linked to location where Caroline’s body was recovered – his grandparents lived in Hythe."

He added: "Each of the two women died in a strikingly similar fashion, which leads to a safe conclusion that they died at the hands of the same man.

"What links these two women is this defendant, David Fuller. Caroline Pierce, 20 years old, was last seen on November 24, 1987, and had been dropped close to her ground floor flat.

"People living in nearby addresses heard the sound of two high-pitched screams of terror from a female.

"She was reported missing when she failed to attend work. There was no sign of her or disturbance at her flat."

The prosecutor added that at the time of her death Wendy was working as the manageress of Supasnaps, in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, and was planning to marry.

He added: "She was in a relationship with Ian Plass, who she had met in December 1985.

"He has died since the time of the killing. The couple planned to marry and to start a family.

"Neither he nor any of her friends were aware of her being in any form of sexual relationship with anyone else. They had spent the evening together on June 22 and the killing occurred after Plass had dropped her off."

The jury heard how Anthony Lemm, who lived in Flat 7, 14 Guildford Road, saw a man looking into a window of a flat opposite his, off the alleyway, on that night at around 10:30pm.

Mr Atkinson added: "Before he made off Mr Lemm had seen the same male looking into the same window three times a week for the past 3 weeks.

"The following morning Deborah Larraz arrived at Supasnaps at 8:50am to find unexpectedly that Ms Knell was not there.

"When she had still not arrived by 9.15am she called the branch manager for Tonbridge for help and went to Ms Knell’s flat.

"She rang the doorbell but got no answer. She spoke to Ms Knell’s mother who said that she had asked Mr Plass to go to the flat. He did so at about 11am and also got no answer from the doorbell.

"He gained entry to the building but found the door to Ms Knell’s flat locked. Mr Plass went around to the back of the building, via the alleyway.

Coverage of the Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce murders in 1987 Scanned from Evening Post
Coverage of the Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce murders in 1987 Scanned from Evening Post

"He climbed onto the flat roof of the lean-to and, through the window, could see a mound at the end of Ms Knell’s bed with her feet sticking out.

"He shouted but got no answer and so climbed in through the insecure window into the flat."

The prosecutor told the jury: "Once inside, Mr Plass encountered the stuff of nightmares.

"He found that Wendy Knell was not asleep under the quilt, but dead. It was later found that Ms Knell’s diary was missing."

Mr Plass rushed to the nearby fire station and with the assistance of officers there he called the police.

They and paramedics attended and found Ms Knell on her bed, under her duvet. She was naked and was clearly dead.

The prosecutor said that her killer managed to enter and leave the premises undetected and carry out the attack without leaving obvious traces, suggesting this was a killer thinking about his actions, taking precautions and taking care.

"Put another way, a killer who had his wits about him, rather than being mentally unfit, " he added.

Mr Atkinson said Wendy's head had not been fractured but there was some bleeding on the brain.

He added: "The pathologist concluded that the blows that had been delivered to the back of Wendy Knell’s head were at least part of what had killed her.

"A 'Y' shaped cut showed that a blow had been struck with a heavy blunt object, but the further bruising and bleeding over the brain indicated that her head had been pounded onto a heavy blunt surface, like a carpeted floor, " he claimed.

The jury heard that when attempts were made to identify the source of the semen found on Wendy in 1992 and 2003 - it was not possible with the technology then available.

But in 2020 it was possible to compare the DNA profile obtained with the DNA profile of the defendant, the court heard.

He said police traced Fuller through DNA links to a family member, who was later eliminated.

Police later found a number of items in the flat, including a blouse which had a partial footprint in blood.

"This mark was identified as coming from a Clarks Sportstrek training shoe. Following the defendant’s arrest, many photographs were found that showed him wearing a pair of trainers and a detailed examination has shown them to be a pair of Clarks Sportstrek trainers, " Mr Atkinson said.

The jury then heard how the second victim, Ms Pierce had moved into the ground floor flat at 27 Grosvenor Park after October 5, 1987.

"Grosvenor Park is situated off Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells and is a no-through road. No 27 is situated at the top of a cul de-sac, adjacent to the disused Woodbury Park cemetery, " said the prosecutor.

He said that Ms Pierce’s flat overlooked the cemetery, and it was accessed by a set of steep stairs down the side of the property.

Mr Atkinson added: "As with Ms Knell’s address this was an area with which the defendant was familiar.

"A letter was recovered when his address was searched after the defendant’s arrest which was addressed to him at 124 Upper Grosvenor Road, not far away.

"Moreover, a colleague of the defendant’s then wife at Broomhill Bank School lived in a basement flat at 57A Grosvenor Park, which similarly backed onto Woodbury Cemetery.

"She also recalled an occasion in January-February 1987 when she became aware of a prowler looking through the venetian blinds into her bedroom.

"The prowler could only have gained access via the alleyway at the bottom of her garden.

"Another resident of Upper Grosvenor Road, Jennifer Talaber, encountered a prowler as she was getting ready for bed on an evening on which she had been visited by the defendant, and recognised the prowler at her window as having been him. This was also in 1986, " he added.

The jury heard how Ms Pierce had been concerned about a prowler just eight weeks before her death .

Mr Atkison added: "Window locks were fitted to her windows because Caroline had complained of a prowler and did not feel secure at her home.

She had also told her former boyfriend, Andrew Soameson, in the period of October 23-26, 1987 that a prowler or peeping tom had been around her flat.

"The defendant’s clear sexual interest in a bizarre and disturbing activity..."

Ms Pierce had, at the time of her death, been working as a manager at Buster Browns, an American restaurant in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells.

"This was a venue with which the defendant was familiar, as his diary for November 19, 1986 indicated his attendance there on the night of a Cutting Crew concert in Tunbridge Wells.

On Tuesday, November 24, she worked at Buster Browns until 2.30pm, and had then visited a work colleague at her home in the afternoon.

"That evening Caroline had then had a meal with a number of her co-workers.They had gone together to the Greyhound public house before reaching a restaurant, Il Piccolo, at about 10.30pm - a restaurant next door to Buster Browns.

The prosecutor added: "At 11.40pm, Ms Pierce called for a mini-cab from Star Line Taxis, and at 11.49pm was collected and dropped her off at 11.55pm,

"The taxi driver last saw her standing on the pavement close to her address. A colleague had tried to call her at about that time, and shortly thereafter, on her home telephone, but could not get an answer."

"Jacqueline Warner, who lived in Grosvenor Park with her bedroom overlooking the cemetery, was in bed when she heard the sound of a female screaming.

"It seemed to be coming from somewhere out the back. The first scream lasted a couple of seconds. A couple of seconds later she heard a louder scream from the same female voice, which sounded frightened and lasted 10 to 15 seconds.

"Antonia Beard, another resident of Grosvenor Park, saw a car pull up, pause with its engine running and then reverse.

"That would be consistent with it being the cab. She also heard a shout of “no” on a couple of occasions, along with screaming for about 30 seconds before there was silence.

"Jennifer Bickerton, also heard a female scream coming from the back garden area of one of the houses in Grosvenor Park.

"The scream sounded very frightened and Sandra Andrews, who lived in Woodbury Park Road, heard screams coming from the direction of Upper Grosvenor Road and Park Road. She said there was a long scream followed by a shorter one. It had an animal quality to it, and sounded like a female who was very frightened, " said the prosecutor.

The court heard how on December 15, 21 days later and 38 miles away her near naked body was found floating at Honeychild Farm, St. Mary-in-the-Marsh.

The defendant’s 1982 diary included a reference to his going bird watching on the Kent Marshes.

"In more recent times, the Cycling Events List for the West Kent Cyclist Touring Club, on which the defendant was a member, shows that on October 11, 987 they had undertaken a bike ride in Romney Marsh.

"These women were not randomly come upon by chance, but were chosen, watched, and marked down by him for death."

"Chittenden Lane, where the body was deposited, has two junctions with the main road between St. Mary in the Marsh and Old Romney along which the National Cycle Route 2 is located.

"The fact that the body was deposited in a location with which the defendant was familiar is itself significant in showing the logical and methodical approach he was adopting to his crime, " he added

She had suffered seven cuts to the top and back of the scalp, including 3 Y shaped cuts, which were consistent with blows from a heavy object.

"There was also a bruise incorporating a cut over the right side of the forehead, which was again consistent with a blow from a heavy blunt object.

"The pathologist considered this traumatic head injury to be a cause of Caroline Pierce’s death, " said Mr Atkinson.

He added that tests revealed there were also signs of attempts by both women to ward off blows, especially in the case of Ms Pierce whose left hand was bruised and left thumb fractured in the process.

"In each case they show injuries consistent with gripping, restraint or contact with the ground, " he added.

Mr Atkinson told the jury: "Neither assault was frenzied or showing a lack of self-control, but was designed to achieve the depraved but deliberate intentions of the perpetrator.

"These women were not randomly come upon by chance, but were chosen, watched, and marked down by him for death."

The jury heard how Fuller was born in Deal but moved to Portsmouth where he committed three burglaries in 1973.

He then moved with his wife who worked at a school for children with learning difficulties – where people complained about prowlers.

He began working as an electrician at two hospitals.

The trial continues.

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